I have been into board gaming for nearly 40 years, which has included starting with games like Monopoly, Sorry, Risk, Escape from Death Star in my pre-teen years in the 1970’s and then growing into more advanced games like Axis & Allies, Conquest of the Empire, Fortress America, Dungeons and Dragons and many others during my teenage years in the 1980’s. I can actually remember when I was in 8th grade, saving my lunch money up for a few days and then making a trip to the local hobby shop to purchase Ral Partha miniatures, dice or D&D modules! I did this fairly often and actually lost quite a bit of weight leading my mom to find out what I was doing and make me stop. I don’t know if that qualifies as addiction, but I sure think so. I would say that I have battled “board game addiction” for most of my life and felt like I had my malady under control until about 9 months ago when the P500 came into my life!
For those that don’t know, the P500 is a pre-order system for GMT Games that allows gamers to vote on what games get reprinted and what games are developed, finalized and released. The P500 system allows us to choose what we want! Choice is a great thing….right? I think it’s great but it is also very dangerous as addicts like myself get to sit for hours looking at their next “drug of choice”. I personally go to the P500 page daily to glean whatever fleeting high I can from looking over each of the listed games, thinking about how amazing it would be to have those great games added to my collection, wringing my hands over timing of the shipping/charging of games that I have ordered (so as to make sure I have the cash flow to pay!) and looking at the number of orders, that seems to increase sometimes only at a painfully glacial pace. I currently have five P500 games committed to which include 1989: Dawn of Freedom, Here I Stand: Wars of the Reformation, Space Empires 4x, Triumph and Tragedy: European Balance of Power and Cactus Air Force. I also have already received Falling Sky: The Gallic Revolt Against Caesar and A Distant Plain: Insurgency in Afghanistan earlier this year. At this time, I also have my eye on the following titles: Bear’s Claw, Comancheria: The Rise and Fall of the Comanche Empire, Hitler’s Reich, Ardennes 44’, Navajo Wars, Pericles and The Hunters. That is an additional 7 great GMT games that I am following and trying to make a clear headed decision on whether to commit to or not.
Recently on Twitter, I asked the following question about the P500 program:
The responses that I received were both hilarious and enlightening! The responses mirrored my own thinking and I found that I am not alone in my adoration and obsession with the P500! There is a truly universal appeal and draw to the program and the joy that it brings to the hearts of many gamers is tangible. Here are the best responses:
I personally have never done Kickstarter for a game. I am hesitant to commit to something that is untested, that I haven’t read a lot about or watched many a video on. My dollars as a gamer are limited and I have to make sure that each game I get is worth the investment. I feel this is one of the biggest benefits of the P500! Funny story from my Father in law. He Kickstarted a carrying case for the Days or Wonder Smallworld series of games that would be able to hold each of the several expansions. This cost him $100 and he paid and has been waiting nearly 2 years for delivery. I wouldn’t be able to handle that! When I pay, I expect that I’m getting my game in a reasonable amount of time.
So let’s take a look at some of the benefits of the P500 system!
- You can get out of print games – how many times have you watched a review, read a blog entry or seen a picture on social media that creates demand in your eyes and makes you want to play a certain game? But as you start to look around, you come to find out that game is currently out of print? You are stuck right?!? Short of paying through the nose on a big online retailer for a copy you have no options, right?!? Wrong…the P500 is that option! You can simply say I want to order that game, add your name to the list of those that agree and eventually it will “make the cut” and be printed. I can tell you that I have been able to get several games this way and it is great. This is the most reliable, economical and easiest way to get those out of print games.
- You can see the order status of games and plan accordingly – seeing the status of your game is as easy as going to the P500 page on GMT’s website. Each game is listed in 1 of 4 different categories, Shipping Now, Charging – In Final Production, Made the Cut – In Art and Final Development or Not There Yet and lists the number of orders to date underneath the picture of the game. This is what has drawn me back to the P500 page like a moth to the flame! I want to know how the game I want is doing and it is as easy to see as a few clicks.
- GMT Support with monthly update and newsletter – each month, on or about the 15th, GMT does a newsletter update of the games on the P500 list. They will give updates from the designers (such as Mark Herman’s recent Delian League Diaries about the new game Pericles – great reads and a game I am looking at because of this newsletter!) updates on the shipping and production schedules, announcements about charging, etc. This newsletter is literally addictive and I cannot wait each month to get to read the latest information. This is a great move by GMT and drives demand for the games as most gamers, like myself, have to be convinced something is great before we will commit to it.
- There is no money up front and you get a chance to back out at any time up until they print/ship – I hate having to pay for something a year in advance before I get it. The P500 doesn’t do this. You simply commit (by providing your credit card number) that you will pay and they don’t even charge you until about a month or so prior to shipping. You can also back out if you change your mind as long as they have not yet charged. That is awesome!
- Price – the price of the P500 games is usually about 20-30% off of the retail price. What a savings! This helps me significantly as I don’t have a lot of disposable income to spend on games (I have 5 children and have to make sure they have clothes, shoes, got the dentist, food to eat, etc.)
- Coupons for the Annual Fall Sale – for each P500 game that you receive in a year, you will be given a “coupon” worth 50% off one in stock GMT Game at their Annual Fall Sale. This is an amazing benefit! They also give you one in addition to the P500 games you get. So in my case, I am expecting to have 3-4 to spend this year (1 + 1 (for Falling Sky), + 1 (for A Distant Plain) + 1 (for Cactus Air Force, if it ships prior to October)). In fact, I have already started charting out my Fall Sale purchases at this time so that I am ready to go when it happens in October! I am going to get about $250 worth of games for $125! That sounds like a great deal to me!
So now lets take a look at a few of the negatives (there aren’t many):
- Games can move very slowly sometimes – I have also had a fairly frustrating experience with at least one P500 game though. I love Twilight Struggle but don’t own a copy as my friends do. I love the gameplay of Twilight Struggle and feel that the other game on the market with similar card driven play and theme is 1989: Dawn of Freedom. Several months ago I began looking for this game to purchase but found that as it was out of print and the prices on Amazon or other retailers were a little high (I saw it for as high as $120). So, I decided to P500 it and got in on the game at 89 orders. To my despair, that was nearly 2 months ago and it has only made it to 100. In fact, to my horror, I noticed yesterday that someone had backed out and it is back to 99! Ugh, will I ever be able to play that game?
- You can get in trouble with ordering too many games – just like anything if you order too many games, some might get done sooner than you expected and you might be stuck with a cash flow issue of your own. You have to be careful and make sure you are being conservative on your ordering. I had both Falling Sky and A Distant Plain charge on the same week and my wife was not very happy with me. I simply blamed GMT and said it was their mistake (she will never call to carroborate my story!). Since, I have tried to look at the number or orders and view the expected production schedule to make an informed decision on what I can and cannot afford. I haven’t had that problem since.
- Communication about charging and shipping is lacking – I also experienced this slightly as I didn’t feel I was given very good information about the shipping dates for my games. I saw that everyone else on social media was enjoying their new P500 games and I became more and more frustrated that I didn’t yet have mine. I know that May was a record month for the P500 and they had 1,000’s of games that they were shipping out all at once (I was told they can do 200-300 shipments per day) but I would suggest a better system of email updates about expected delivery and then clear and constant updates on that status. A little communication goes a long way!
I appreciate the fact that GMT has created this amazing ordering and delivery system known as the P500 for their addicting games. It truly is a model of efficiency in the gaming world and is sure to be the standard in the future. I will continue to peruse the P500 page daily, dreaming of my next games and planning out the course of my purchases. All that I ask is that GMT considers providing us with counseling services or interventions before we all become hopelessly lost in its glory! (Also please consider P500’ing my list of 7 games above so that I can get them sooner rather than later.)